1986 Budweiser Hydro Trophy
Miss Bud'sSo New
In mid June, the hydroplane fleet trekked to southeast Florida to renew its annual quest for National honors, and possibly determine the future direction of the sport. Will the Unlimiteds follow the expensive whisper machines into a turbine decade? Will the sport shift to automotive power and cheaper, smaller boats? Will the sport break apart into two or more classes based on powerplants? The 1986 season will certainly help answer some of these questions but of more immediate concern to the turbine contingent was the salt water jinx. Just winning a first race on salt water or finishing a first salt water heat would be an improvement on the past.
The largest field in many years appeared to contest for the 16th annual Budweiser Unlimited Regetta at Miami's Marine Stadium on Biscayne Bay. The mixture of powerplants typified the different possible futures for the sport with three Iycoming turbines, five Turbo-Allisons, a Rolls Royce Griffon and a 500 cu. in supercharged Chevrolet. All but the Thor Racing Team's Riggins Crab House (U-7) reached the required 95 mph speed. Topping the qualification ladder was Jim Kropfeld in the Miss Budweiser (U-11) turbine at 122.719. Following Jim were the other two turbines; Steve Reynolds in 7-Eleven (U-711) at 117.399 and Chip Hanauer aboard Miller American (U-1) at 116.151. Scott Pierce in the Miss Budweiser (U-12) Griffon stood fourth on the ladder at 116.084; the Frank Kenney (U-5) fifth with Milner Irvin at 110.191, and Miss Madison (U-6) sixth at 105.920 with Ron Snyder. Closely bunched were George Johnson in Oh Boy! Oberto (U-4) at 98.914, John Prevost in the Chevrolet-powered Miss Merc Cruiser (U-200) at 98.784, and Todd Yarling in Jim Sedam's Pantry Pride (U-22) at 98.155.
The race was run under threatening skies. Heat 1-A matched the Budweiser and Miller turbines with Oh Boy! Oberto, Miss Merc Cruiser, and Pantry Pride. The expected battle for turbine supremacy didn't develop because Chip Hanauer was forced to stay on the beach with the Miller American?, Temperature problems caused by the salt water had again grounded the defending National Champion. Oh Boy! Oberto was black flagged before the start of the heat for not being on plane at the one minute gun, making a three boat heat. Todd Yarling in Pantry Pride made a great start on the inside, and was able to hold off Jim Kropfeld for over a lap. The Budweiser turbine soon took over and easily won the heat with an average speed of 102.495. Pantry Pride finished second. Miss Merc Cruiser did not finish.
Heat 1 B promised to be interesting with the Budweiser Griffon, Frank Kenney, Miss Madison, and 7-Eleven contesting on the one and two-thirds mile course. Milner Irvin returned the Frank Kenney to the pits before the start with engine problems that ended its day of racing. Ron Snyder in the Miss Madison hit the starting line in the middle lane at full throttle. Scott Pierce held the inside lane in the Budweiser Griffon and Steve Reynolds followed on the outside. Budweiser moved outside of Miss Madison and challenged for several laps, finally falling back to take second. Ron Snyder scored the heat win with a speed of 101.253. Steve Reynolds' 7-Eleven was constantly plagued with overheating, causing compressor stall, but managed to limp home third, a moral victory since this was the first heat finish for 7-Eleven on salt water in Miami.
The start of heat 2-A was a classic with Miss Madison, the Budweiser turbine and 7-Eleven all crossing the line together. 7-Eleven soon dropped back, still suffering from compressor stall. The Madison and the Budweiser then teamed up for a good race until Jim Kropfeld was able to pull ahead on, the fourth lap, finishing first in 100.842, followed by Miss Madison and 7-Eleven.
Heat 2-B matched the Budweiser Griffon with Pantry Pride, Oh Boy! Oberto, and Miss Merc Cruiser. This heat appeared ready made for Bernie Little, but Griffons have gremlins too. The field reached the line early and had to slow. Todd Yarling accelerated first into the South turn, closely pursued by Scott Pierce with Miss Merc Cruiser and Oh Boy! Oberto trailing. Budweiser took over the lead in the second turn and began to pull away. On the third lap George Johnson moved into position to challenge Todd but hooked the Oberto in the South turn. Miss Merc Cruiser continued to trail behind the field. On the backstretch of the fourth lap Budweiser's nitrous button stuck and, when Scott backed off going into the North turn, blew the front end off the engine. Todd Yarling went on to his first heat win of the year for Pantry Pride in 90.409. John Prevost finished second. Oh Boy! Oberto succumbed to its own problems on the fifth lap.
Following Heat 2-B the sky opened and torrential rain fell, delaying the final heat. After hours delay even though rain was still galling, the officials decided to try to run the final heat. As they headed out, Jim Kropfeld quipped that Bernie had ordered the two inches of fresh water to cover up the salt water so it wouldn't hurt his turbine. Both Budweiser hulls, the two Madison boats and 7-Eleven qualified for the final heat. When 7-Eleven was not able to start the alternate Miss Merc Cruiser took her place. The rain greatly limited visibility leading to the poorest start of the day with the boats scattered. The Budweiser turbine led across the line followed by the Madison. Farther back the Budweiser Griffon and Pantry Pride crossed together with Miss Merc Cruiser trailing badly. Ron Snyder caught Kropfeld in the first turn but the turbine had too much power and pulled away up the backstretch. Miss Madison managed to stay on the Budweiser turbine's hip for several laps but eventually dropped back to finish second. Jim Kropfeld broke the salt water turbine jinx in convincing fashion winning the final heat in 102.495. The end of a perfect day for Bernie's new venture. Scott Pierce battled Todd Yarling for several laps before opening up a lead and taking third. John Prevost finished fifth in Miss Merc Cruiser.
The win marked the seventh victory for Bernie and Budweiser in Miami. It was Jim Kropfeld's eleventh and Bernie's 54th overall. As true so often in the past, the Miss Budweiser camp was again responsible for a major advancement in performance. In its first race under Bernie's banner, the former Lite All Star was able to break the turbine salt water jinx. Jim Kropfeld not only finished a heat, he dominated the day, winning all three heats. As the fleet moved on to Detroit for the Gold Cup, Bernie served notice that Chip Hanauer's quest for five straight Gold Cup victories would be just a Little harder.
(Reprinted from the Unlimited NewsJournal, July 1986)
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